DO FREEBIES AFFECT THE FREE AND FAIR ELECTION: AN ANALYSIS?
AUTHORED BY - VIVEK KUMAR
The word freebies basically mean any thing which is given to anyone free of cost with the motive to get some favor for any particular purpose. India a democratic nation where Parliamentary forms of government exist which consists of two houses i.e. Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. To appoint a member of Lok Sabha which is commonly known as the House of the People one should go for an election. In India the election commission is the regulating and independent body which holds election without any influence or external pressure. Local peoples choose their representatives by the way of election to represent them in the house for the concern of that local or particular area. The expectation of peoples from their representatives would be fulfilled if they elect good candidates on his or her merit instead of freebies given prior to election or promise to give after winning election because it creates undue influence on the voters so the concept of freebies in nothing new, it had been emerged in the late 1960’s where almost all political parties were promising free rations and midday meals in schools for enticing the voters. So in this article I will discuss the role and impact of freebies in free and fair election.
In Unitary States like U.K. all powers are vested in single hands and for local administration powers are delegated to local authority for the concern of local people so local authority are subordinate to central government unlike in India where constitution is the supreme law of the land where parliamentary form of government exists and the whole country is governs by the constitution. It follows federal form of government where three tier of government exist such as central government, state government and local authority where both central government and state government have their own existence and both owe their powers from federal constitution and local authority derives their power from state government. According to dictionary meaning the term freebies means anything which is given to any person without any cost. There are so many political parties whose ambitions are to come in power goes for election and they give party symbols to the person who wishes to contest election or to those party may thinks appropriate. Prior to the election the candidates or their supporter started their campaign and making promises to the people and the parties or candidates started offering televisions, laptops, cycle, sarees, etc to entice voters to give votes in their favor. The Representation of People Act, 1951 talks about the encouragement of constitutional right of free and fair election though freebies are being used by almost all political parties which hinders or obstruct the free and fair election process because it creates an undue influence on the people. There are some basic amenities which must be given by the State free of cost like pure drinking water, electricity, old age pension, good transport service, under the concept of welfare state but we need to understand that there is a thin line difference between things given under the welfare concept and things given for some malicious purpose. Under our Indian constitution there is a concept of Directive Principle of State Policy under part IV which also supports the concept of welfare state. Similarly, Art 282 of the constitution talks about the uplifting of weaker section of the society by waving unpaid loans, encouraging farmers. But the thing is that prior to election sarees, cash, liquor are being distributed to entice the voters and candidates used to round of in their area for this purpose. As we know it is the human tendency to get attracted towards the free things that would lead to election or selection of candidates which is not proper for the society and the knowledgeable candidates was leaved behind the society. It is acceptable facts that in the modern era of globalization economy always prevail over the knowledge. In this connection people did not think about the consequences and they suffer for the whole term for the basic development.
Historical background of freebies
In 1952, election has been held for the first time in the country. In 1960’s the political parties in South India for the first time offered free or heavily subsidized rice. First time late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, J Jayalalithaa started the culture of freebies prior to election. She promised free sarees, pressure cookers, televisions, washing machines, and more. After that the culture had been adopted across the nation on the grounds of social welfare scheme. Recently in 2015 freebies culture had been seen when Aam Aadmi Party(AAP) in Delhi Assembly election offered free electricity and water in certain amount to urban voters which is ultimately against the provision of welfare objectives as free electricity could be understood but certain amount of electricity only to urban voters is beyond reasonable thinking. Also in Punjab assembly election AAP had promised 300 units of electricity free to the people of that concerned state and as a result it had won the election by defeating Congress & Akali Dal, along with BJP. Recently, a PIL has been filed by the BJP leader and advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, in the Supreme Court claiming intervention of the court to the promise made or distribution of irrational freebies from public funds pre-election that could undue influence the voters, shake the roots of a free and fair election that would lead to vitiating the purity of the election process. It was contended that the act of the political parties violated Art14, 162, 266(3) and 282 of the Indian Constitution and seeks direction to the Election Commission to seize election symbols and deregister political parties that promised to or distribute unreasonable freebies to the public from their money payable in the form of tax. In the response of PIL filed, the Supreme Court had asked responses from the Centre and Election Commission of India on the continuous use of freebies by the political parties prior to election to entice the voters. It had also asked for guidelines which are to be framed by the ECI. In the response of Supreme Court, only one times meetings had been held by the Election Commission of India with the political parties regarding their view on freebies culture.
Impact of freebies on election
India the highly populated country in the world follows parliamentary form of government where election are held in every 5 years at all level like central or federal, state and local level. All the representatives are held accountable for their concern area as they represent the whole people of that particular area and they have been elected directly by the people through the universal adult franchise. Freebies means a thing received free of cost and it is given for some special purpose like to make some favor. Normally it is given at the time of local election. During local elections mostly the candidates are of non political background and they took it as an opportunity for the enhancement of his wealth and with this motive they contest election and make all possible efforts to win the election. In this context they started distributing sarees, organizing chicken rice party, distributing liquor, and makes false promises regarding the local development of society or that concerned area. More or less prior to the night of election those candidates who are financially strong started distributing the cash to the particular section of that concerned area like woman, SC/ST, disabled person, BPL etc with the intent to entice that particular section of the society that would lead to hindrance in free and fair election as the act did by the candidates mostly prior to election day in the name of advertisement is totally against the rules made in this behalf by election commission. This is the ground reality of local election under which ward council, mayor, deputy mayor election falls. At State level there is the election of MLA where political parties play a very vital role. For instance, in any States there are three or four regional parties which has ambitions to come in power and in this respect they published their manifesto which consists of ‘n’ number of freebies like they promised to provide 15 lakhs in bank accounts, free electricity and water, free bus services for woman and senior citizen, distribution of laptops, bicycle etc. This is the harsh reality of election in which political party’s makes freebies as a tool to entice voters and win the election instead of publishing the development policies that would give employment to the unemployed youth, high quality education, eradication of poverty, protection of women, and the expansion of the economy. Now at central level, Member of Parliament has also been elected through election to represent the people of their constituency. Numbers of electorates are more in number with comparison to other election. At this level of election candidates faces a lot of difficulties in distributing freebies as mentioned above that the number of electorates are more in number so it would not be feasible to distribute freebies to all vulnerable group of the society. So here comes the role of manifesto. The word manifesto comes from the latin word “Manifestum”. It has been usually issued by the political parties prior to the election in which the policies, welfare program, opportunities related to employment, free services of electricity and water, old age pension scheme, etc, has been mentioned. In literal sense it is the public document issued by the political parties to entice voters to win the election. Here in the shield of manifesto, freebies are being offered by the political parties.
The Dangers and Alarms
India got its independence in 1947, and after that on 26th January, 1950 constitution had been enforced. The thought of other country in reference to India was that it is a barbaric country having huge population following different culture and religion so it would face lot of difficulties in running the country through its constitution. But in present times other country took the example of India and gave a complement that look how the people of India is living peacefully and following the laws in accordance with the constitution. Though, India being the oldest democratic country in the world, in some respect we are still a young nation.
Many constitutional provisions are still being interpreted and challenged, amendment has been done more than hundreds times, the laws are still evolving. The freebies culture which had been started in 1960’s is still in existence and is being used as a tool to entice voters to win election. Corrupt practices have been defined in the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951 which also states that bribing voters to influence voting is prohibited. The freebies given to the people are presented in front of people in such a way that people thinks it is totally of the candidate hard work but in reality it is the funds given to government in the form of taxes. The way the people are electing their candidates in present scenario is a matter of great concern. There is totally the dominance of money over the merit. Peoples need to understand how their money is being used to entice the voters and also the difference between freebies and things given under welfare scheme. So the day is no so far when the political parties will say we will provide u every thing free of cost so vote for my party. So as the alarms Supreme Court need to issue guidelines regarding the control of irrational, unreasonable freebies that would be feasible for free and fair election.
Freebies, the key to win the election at all level have very huge impact not only at the time of election but also post election. The amount invested in the name of freebies leads to many loses to the economy of the nation. For instance, at local level of election candidates used to distribute cash prior to one day of election and the voters thinks it is the value of his vote and took money as a reward specially it happened to the illiterate or vulnerable section of the society but they don’t think about how the candidate will manage the whole amount which was invested prior to election. After the election the concerned candidates come in power then the fund which will be given in the name of development of that vulnerable group from the government then the eighty percent of the funds will go to personal profit of that representative and twenty percent will be invested in the name of development. So electorates need to understand their value of vote and they have to think one vote will change the whole structure of my society. Now, at central as well as state level election, political parties invested huge amount of public money in the name of freebies that should be understood by the voters that it is not the money of any particular political parties but it is the fund which is given to the government in the form of taxes. The freebies culture is continuously affecting the economic condition of the country. So, India should learn from the Sri Lanka and Venezuela. In South America, Venezuela was one of the richest countries due to abundant oil. Freebies in the form of food to public transportation had been promised. Subsequently, the price of oil was reduced and government was continuing to waive the loans that lead to scarcity of foods and economic crisis. Also in Sri Lanka, the economy had been collapsed where peoples was facing shortage of basic amenities like, food, fuel, and medicines. The prime reason for collapsing the economy was loans given to farmers that lead to shortage of food grains and rising of the prices. There is nothing wrong in providing loans with the faith intention of eradication of poverty but it should not be given at the time of election to entice the voters. So lastly I would conclude that people needs to understand the basic difference between freebies and scheme under social welfare state. People should have to recognize their right and try to elect those candidates or political parties whose policies or ideology are totally for the development of the people. India is still a developing nation so the government needs to understand that the money of the people should not be misused. I would seek directions or guidelines from the Election Commission of India regarding the freebies culture. Especially at local level election some special should be done prior to one night of election that candidates would not be able to distribute cash to bend the surrounding in his favor. I have witnessed the exact situation at local level that prior to one night of voting day many candidates used to distribute cash in the vulnerable group of the society and they in common term buying the vote on money power so I would seek Election Commission of India to run once a time awareness program among the voters and form committee consisting of experts which run a awareness program among the people of the society.